Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale

Review Date 12/9/2002   Last Updated   12/7/2012  By John Staradumsky

Bah. humbug! OK, that might be old Mister Ebenezer Scrooge's reaction to Old Fezziwig Ale, but it certainly is not mine. I'm sure Scrooge is a little jealous that a five-star beer the likes of this one is named after Fezziwig. Perhaps in time he’ll get his own Scrooge Ale. One never knows.

"...old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, "Well done!" and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose."
---From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Once again, Boston Beer has brought back one of the beers I loved best in their line, a holiday classic they had discontinued several years ago. The catch is that it’s only available in their Holiday Classics sampler. But that’s OK, because the sampler includes a nice array of brews well worth the $11 asking price.

Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig first appeared back in the mid nineties, and was initially sold in attractive 750ml bottles with gold foil wrapped around the necks. Eventually, it was sold in six-packs too during the holiday season. A few years ago, however, Boston Beer decided to discontinue the brand, which was a disappointment to the many beer lovers who enjoyed it. Since then, they seem to have reconsidered Old Fezziwig’s untimely demise, including it with other great Samuel Adams brews for you to try. Here’s what you get in this year’s holiday sampler:

2 Samuel Adams Winter Lagers
2 Samuel Adams Boston Lagers
2 Sam Adams Lights
2 Samuel Adams Vienna Lager (new)
2 Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambics
2 Samuel Adams Old Fezziwigs.

Like Dickens’ character Old Fezziwig in a Christmas Carol, Old Fezziwig is lively, spicy, and bursting with Christmas cheer. In many respects it is similar to Anchor’s Our Special Ale, though it is a bit lighter bodied and more subtly spiced. The orange adds a unique twist to the brew.

Here’s what I thought about this beer in 2000:

Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale pours to a deep brown color with an abundant, creamy tan head formation and a spicy, malty nose. The color is representative of the dark malts used to brew it, notably chocolate. Caramel malt imparts a rich and very satisfying mouthfeel. The palate bursts with rich, chocolaty, tasty notes that slowly increase in intensity right on into the finish. You won’t find much in the way of hops there, but you will find a citric orange twang that combines perfectly with the chocolaty malt character to leave the impression of a Tobbler Chocolate Orange. There are notes of cinnamon and especially ginger too.

The 2002 Old Fezziwig pours to a deep mahogany color with a thick creamy head and a spicy chocolate nose. The palate is once again full of rich roasty chocolate notes. They’re the first thing to hit the taste buds, and are quickly followed up by the spices: strong ginger, light cinnamon, and finally the orange in the finish. Flavors of toast malt and spicy ginger linger on the tongue after sipping.

This is a wonderful beer. A celebration in a glass, and a fantastic brew to sip by the Christmas tree whilst listening to Christmas carols on the stereo. Enjoy it with Pfeffernusse (German Christmas Cookies), fruitcake, or gingerbread. If you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat. If you have had it before, you’ll be glad to know its back again.

A perfect gift for the beer enthusiast on your Christmas list. They’d have to be a Scrooge not to like it.

Update 12/7/2012: Can I say that I enjoy this beer as much today as I did almost ten years ago to the day when I reviewed it? So chocolaty underneath, and perfectly accented with ginger, citrusy orange, and cinnamon. The spices all work together wonderfully to make this a holiday cookie in a glass.

Only available in the Winter Classics sampler, but packaged with so many other great beers why wouldn't you buy it? Delicious. A half star added for 2012.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.